Super supper soup.

It takes more than an ordinary bowl for the Christmas cake mix here and inspired my very first Baking Blind video by brother Martin

In the past, I’ve used a pristine washing-up bowl but even this isn’t big enough for, by my calculations, nearly 10 kilos (20 lb) of ingredients.  Luckily, my Covid home clear-out unearthed an even bigger food-quality plastic box.  The dried fruit had been soaking in brandy for months;  two hours chopping the nuts gave me cramp in both hands; I layered the butter/sugar/eggs/flour mix with the other ingredients in the box, folded them all together and filled all the cake tins and moulds. It was a juggling act to cook them in two ovens, turning and changing their positions over several hours.  Thankfully, there was enough to have a “test cake” shared with guinea pig friends, Sue and Rod.  Verdict: perfectly moist but I’ll still be injecting brandy for the next week.

Other cooking was rather on the back burner in the midst of these culinary challenges but I did manage a new B&B soup:

1 onion, peeled and chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 sticks celery, peeled and chopped

250g smoked back bacon, de-rinded and chopped

1 butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and chopped

3 vegetable stock cubes

Salt and pepper


Sauté the onion, carrots, celery and bacon.

Add the butternut squash to the pan plus the stock cubes.

Cover the ingredients with water and simmer until the squash has softened.

Whizz to a smooth soup in a blender.

Season to taste.


Even Martin, staying overnight and no fan of butternut squash, declared the result to be delicious – served  with home-made soda bread to make that super supper.





Christmas cake decoration.

Turning delicious fruit cakes in to fabulous gifts.

Finished cakes

Finished cakes

Imperial Metric Ingredient
Two-thirds jar   Apricot jam
    Selection of dried fruit and nuts
8 ounces 225 grams Marzipan
    Icing sugar for dusting
16 ounces 550 grams Icing sugar
3   Egg whites
1 teaspoon   Glycerine
    Cake decorations (optional)
    Edible glitter

Place about half the jar of apricot jam in a heatproof bowl with a splash of water.

Heat on half heat in the microwave (or a pan) until quite warm but not hot.

Use a blender to reduce the jam mix to a fine slurry.

With a pastry brush, paint the tops of the cakes and press the fruit and nuts on top.  Carefully brush again with the jam mix to give a glaze and stick the decoration.  Sprinkle with glitter dust if using.

For cakes to be iced, roll out the marzipan using a little icing sugar to dust the surface and rolling pin.  Measure the diameter of the cake and cut a circle to fit.  If icing the sides too, measure the circumference and height of the cake and cut out a rectangle of marzipan to fit.

Ideally, allow the glaze to dry on the fruit decoration for 24 hours before handling again and leave the marzipanned cakes for 24 hours before icing.

To make Royal icing, place the egg whites in a very clean bowl and stir in the sifted icing sugar.

Once mixed, add the glycerine and whisk at high speed for 10 minutes until it becomes very stiff and meringue-like.

Place spoonfuls on the cakes and spread with a palette knife that has been heated in a jug of hot water.

Add cake decorations and glitter if using.

Allow to dry before handling again.

My tips:

I used the leftover brandy/fruit juice liquid instead of water to thin the jam.

If you are making small cakes, just icing the top is probably enough additional sugar.

For cutting the marzipan neatly, you may have a pastry or cookie cutter the right size.

I wrapped a piece of string around the cake to measure the circumference – the long side of the rectangle for covering the sides.

Sifting the icing sugar is essential – it is virtually impossible to beat out any lumps afterwards.

It is critical not to add too much glycerine – I did one year and the icing ran off the cake like droopy knickers!

Wrap the cakes in greaseproof or parchment paper and tie with a ribbon.

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

Cakes with icing and pewter decorations

Cakes with icing and pewter decorations

Christmas cake fruit decoration

Christmas cake fruit decoration